I’m thrilled to be interviewing Nicholas Pearson. You may know him from previous interviews we’ve done, or maybe you have some of his amazing books that we’ll be talking about.
Nicholas Pearson: It’s been a while since we’ve done a podcast together. I was talking earlier today on Instagram about our podcast episode on ethical crystals, which I still refer people to on a weekly basis.
Ashley: Yes, so many people learned a lot from our ethical crystals conversation – it had a lot of good takeaways. Before that, we talked about your Stones of the Goddess book and we’ve also talked about Crystals for Karmic Healing.
I’m really excited about today’s chat with you because I have an early copy of your latest book! Crystal Basics Pocket Encyclopedia is coming out officially in early-March, but you can get it now from your publisher, Inner Traditions. Plus, there’s signed copies from you available on Etsy.
I’d love to know: what inspired you to create this book? And what do you find unique about it?
Nicholas: Thank you for all that. I think I’m going to be really transparent. One of the reasons that I wrote this book is because pocket encyclopedias are popular and I have a bunch that don’t necessarily meet all of my needs, plus the crystal market changes. So, a sample of a few hundred stones from fifteen years ago is probably far different than the most popular stuff on the market today.
All books are a snapshot in time but I think this book is very much a snapshot of the here and now. It’s something a little fresher, a little more up-to-date.
With the pocket encyclopedia, I wanted it to be easy to navigate and portable. I wanted to create something that really stood on its own and didn’t feel too overwhelming.
Ashley: I think you definitely accomplished all of those goals that you set out for because truly it kind of ticks all those boxes. So for those of you who might have Crystal Basics for reference, the Pocket Encyclopedia is a nice little companion because it does have all those extra stones. You can tell that an avid crystal book reader wrote this, you can tell that a crystal-lover wrote this because it truly does have everything you want. It’s organized in a nice way.
The way that the information is laid out is really succinct but also gives you everything you’d want to know at the moment from a pocket guide.
I mean, you have chemical formulas, mineral hardness, crystal system, formation process, chakras, correspondences, and then the physical, psychological, and spiritual healing properties. And – in addition to all of that for 450 crystals! – there is this great introduction that really goes through how to work with stones.
How did you decide on what to include in the introduction? Why did you choose certain topics to share in this little pocket reference?
Nicholas: That was honestly the hardest part for me! I didn’t want to recycle or rehash everything verbatim but shorter from Crystal Basics. Yes, there’s overlap. There’s a reason their titles are similar. It’s because they are part of the same family, but they really are standalone works.
I had to hone in on what is the most fundamental thing I can teach people in a few short paragraphs at a time. What can I do with this book to make it separate from Crystal Basics? How can I add value to every entry in here so I’m not just having a shorter version of that? So the introduction of correspondences was really important to me for that.
Especially thinking, how about someone reading this who doesn’t know anything about energy healing or any kind of metaphysical spiritual practice? What are words that they’re going to need to know? And I went through and subtracted a lot of jargon so that way I wouldn’t have a massive glossary either. So I hope to whet someone’s appetite for crystals.
Ashley: You’re so thoughtful and intentional about the creation process of this book. I want to touch back on something you said earlier, which is about how the mineral market is always changing, there are always new things that become popular and things that somehow strangely fall out of fashion. I know a lot of people think this whole world of crystal healing is brand new but you and I have been around for a while. We know there are things that have fallen by the wayside over the years and then things that make their resurgence.
450 stones is a lot of stones, but how did you determine which ones made the cut? How did you go through that process and how did the mineral market, if at all, influence what you were choosing to showcase in the book?
Nicholas: First and foremost, I started with those 200 from Crystal Basics and I went through very methodically and said, “which of these have lived their popularity on the market?” There are a couple of things I thought were new and exciting that I added to Crystal Basics that dried up, like a flash in the pan, and so they didn’t make it into this. So it’s not a carbon copy of those 200, plus 250 more!
The other kind of paradigm that I used was to make sure that I included things that I couldn’t find in other books. Things that were either popular in terms of the retail side of it, having worked in metaphysical retail for a good number of years. I get to see what comes in, what goes out, what people ask for.
Of course, our old favorites have to be in there for that foundational-level knowledge. And one of the different directions I went in with this book than my others was to make sure I had room for common rocks. Because they will always be around and they may never be popular, strictly speaking.
I really want to work on decolonizing crystal work and I know that that term is polarizing and means different things to different people. So I want to hold space for the complexity there. But among spiritual practices, among energy medicine practices, crystal healing is very uniquely market-driven. It is a uniquely consumerist approach. You have to buy the tools, the number of tools changes, the quality of the tools changes, and as someone who’s been around crystals for a long time, your taste tends to change and elevate as well.
The varieties Amethyst crystals are as diverse as they are beautiful, and becoming familiar with the differences and similarities in these treasured stones can be really helpful. In my Amethyst Crystals from Around the World Course, I’ve shared information about the different energetic qualities of 12 different types of Amethysts from around the globe.
You’ll learn key information about Amethyst, like…
- An introduction to Amethyst crystals including what makes an Amethyst, a brief history of the stones, and a tour of some examples of the stones from Ashley’s collection
- An in-depth look at 12 different types of Amethyst stones including Brandberg, Chevron, Citrine-Headed, Green, Indian, Oaxacamer, Uruguayan, Vera Cruz, & more including their origin/locality, healing properties, identifiable features, etc.
- A discussion about other Amethyst-containing minerals like Ametrine, Super Seven, and Auralite-23
As crystal healers, it’s important for us to be able to identify and differentiate lots of different crystal types as well as to understand the similarities and subtle differences between the stones we work with for healing. Sign-up for my Amethyst Crystals from Around the World Course!
So, I felt this ethical imperative to include things that won’t cost people money because you could find them in your backyard or in your local park, or as a building material in your home. I mean, those things are crystals as well! The limestone beneath me is made out of microcrystalline calcite and it’s really cool, and I keep some around the house because I love it so much. And there’s a power to that.
I took several cross-sections of what fascinates me and what I hope to do with the market, ensure our basics are covered, reflect changing market trends, and put things in there that require no extra monetary investment.
So, if you live in the Granite Mountains, you know about the healing power of granite. And you can use that as a valuable and viable healing tool. Some more exciting things didn’t make the cut so I can make sure I have rhyolite and marble and limestone and all these other things in there to work on hoping to de-consumerize some of what we do. That being said, I love things. I’m going to keep buying things. I can’t help it. So I’ll keep buying rocks, but we’ve spent some time away from home together recently and wouldn’t you know, I had rocks in my pocket that I found in public places the whole time.
Ashley: One of the things that I really like about this approach is that you really elevate the humble stones that we find in our local landscape. And I think that there’s something so valuable about that. Because so often in the crystal healing world which is consumerist-driven, as you mentioned, we tend to gravitate toward the most sparkly, the most colorful, and the shiniest, the most – dare I say – exotic-looking things in a lot of ways.
We talked about this in our ethical sourcing discussion, just as with the things that we eat, we may strive to eat locally.
It makes a lot of sense to source some of our crystals locally. Not just from an environmental standpoint and an ethical sourcing standpoint, but also because of the connection to the energy of the land that we live on, or that we occupy.
And so, I find it really humbling and pretty awesome that you’ve chosen to include some of these more common stones that we might be able to find around us because we should all know what’s right out in our backyard. We should all know what we want to connect with.
Nicholas: We often hear herbalists talk about how the most powerful medicines are the ones that grow in our backyard, or the timeliest and most relevant herbal medicines are the ones we find in our local landscape. And I think the exact same thing is true of the stones.
Oftentimes the magic we need, the energy we need is right there. It’s under our feet, it’s in the façade of our home. It’s in the cobblestones that you take downtown. If we stop and appreciate them, we often find pretty wonderful things and you’re hard-pressed to not see me lagging behind a group if there’s a really nice, granite countertop somewhere.
My husband, my parents, and I recently had dinner together and I picked the table we sat at based on which one had the most exotic, giant crystals in the granite makeup of the table. So that’s par for the course for me.
To think of all those times we forget to acknowledge the humble stones and our landscape. Think of how much potential is there because the definition of a rock is an aggregate of minerals. Minerals, by definition, are naturally-occurring, inorganic crystals. Rocks are made of crystals!
The more we hold space for the humble stuff and learn to appreciate what makes them wonderful, then we also elevate our appreciation of those really fine mineral specimens we see at the Tucson fine mineral showcase and places like that.
I’ve gotten nerdy about the limestone beneath me or the Blue Lias, the limestone and shale strata that make up the Landscapes of Southwest Great Britain – where we’re going for our upcoming retreat, or my appreciation for the metamorphosis of granites in certain parts of New England by just going and reading about them and seeing them. Now I have a whole new set of eyes that I use to look at my quartz and my calcite and all my other things with because there’s a cross-over there when we learn about one and it enriches the other.
Ashley: I can attest to this firsthand because, how many times while we were in Tucson did I look back toward the car only to see Nicholas hunched over in the parking lot looking at a stone?
Nicholas: I keep making the plant analogy but you and I are also both plant-people so we get it. I think some of the most reliable and trustworthy medicines in the standard herbalist toolbox are pretty humble things. They’re not rare stuff, it’s stuff you could grow in your backyard – it might even be growing in your biome already! If it’s not native, it might’ve gotten naturalized by accident and I feel the same way about rocks.
And that’s one of many reasons why I’m so excited for our upcoming retreat!
We get to shift our focus toward the landscape and find mystery among the mundane.
My love of rocks and minerals is like a crooked path. I veer towards really fine minerals, and then I find a really cool piece of granite and that’s what I work with for the next 3 weeks. And then I shell out the big bucks for that rhodonite that probably shouldn’t have come home with me.
I want to encourage people to realize that, whatever tools they have available to them, are the right tools. You don’t need all 450 rocks that are in this book. If you can make a small tool kit that is meaningful to you, even if half of the rocks are foraged, you probably have a really good tool kit as long as you get to know those rocks.
Ashley: Your passion and the variety of things that you’re interested in when it comes to stones really shines through from the pages of your book. I love the variety of minerals that you’ve included.
So I’m wondering, is there anything that you really wanted to include but that you had to cut?
Nicholas: In my initial wish list, there was a lot that didn’t make the cut – the shape of the book changed a lot from my proposal.
I came up with a list of 600 stones approximately so a quarter of that didn’t make the cut. Some were cut because they weren’t exciting enough and others because I wanted to have room for other things.
I like weird agates. There’s a few that either didn’t make it because they were probably too costly for the average person or because I don’t think they’re popular enough or, in one case, they don’t necessarily photograph well all the time.
There were a few that I think specialty collectors know well, but maybe the average collector less; stuff like clinozoisite and glaucophane. I wanted to have a couple of different relatives of labradorite in there under the labradorite section. Smokey amethyst was one that got cut very late in the game, and condor agate. Alexandrite, I feel bad that alexandrite isn’t in there, but I just couldn’t get a good one to photograph. There were a handful that were so close and I just had to make room for others.
Ashley: What I like about this is it’s like an insight into what it’s like as an author trying to make these decisions, while being mindful of the fact that some of these are not very budget-friendly for the average consumer. Some of these are not really commercially-available. But you still managed to capture a really good cross-section of what’s out there.
If you had to suggest 5 crystals that are in this book that would be really good foundational stones for anyone’s toolkit, what would your 5 crystals be?
This is such a great book for anyone getting started with crystals. If you wanted to get your friends or your family into crystals, this would make such a nice gift. How cool would it be to be able to give them 5 crystals to get them started along with it!
- First and foremost, start with quartz. Quartz of any flavor, color, or shape of your choosing, but start with the quartz family as a really broad spectrum stone.
There are more crystal books devoted to only working with quartz than there are about any other specialized topic in crystal healing. That is a really good testament to just how effective it is.
- For my personal practice and my journey, obsidian is a really great foundation stone. It can be a little heavy to work with.
The honesty of obsidian’s energy, the way it reflects things as they are underneath the surface is like having that really honest friend – they have zero filter and there’s no chill but you’re always glad when they speak their mind anyway.
- Anyone who’s listened to me talk about crystals for more than 5 minutes at a time knows that I love rhodonite. So that’s going to go on my list because I can scarcely go anywhere without it. Even if I don’t wear it around the clock, when I travel it comes with me and I wear it through all the anxious bits of travel. So many of us, in a fast-paced world, need a little help slowing down and unwinding.
- Another really broad spectrum stone that I think a lot of us would benefit from would be carnelian. Carnelian got really, super-hot on TikTok for just a small section of what it does. But it is a really multifaceted stone.
We can use carnelian when we feel a sense of spiritual, emotional, mental burnout. We can use it when we need that creative boost. I like to use it when I’m stuck in a rut, it provides the additional energy to overcome inertia.
- So, for number 5, I’m torn between 2, but they’re the same mineral species. So I hope you’ll forgive me for cheating a little bit here, but I would say pick either aquamarine and/or emerald.
Aqua has been a favorite of mine for a very long time again because it’s so multifaceted.
I think one of the deeper things that all beryls do is that they help us get to the blueprint underneath things. So aqua is about letting go of the dust that inhibits your light from shining. That might help you communicate better, take some risks, and feel a little bit more courageous. It might help you learn to go with the flow. There are so many ways that can manifest. But it’s definitely a clarity kind of stone.
On the other side of that, emerald also works at this kind of blueprint level, but it does so, very specifically, from the hearts perspective. Emerald reminds you that you are worthy of unconditional love without having to do anything. You don’t have to earn it, you just are.
Nicholas Pearson’s Top 5 Crystals for Your Toolkit
- Quartz Crystals (any variety) – Very multi-faceted and has a broad range of applications for healing
- Obsidian – A great foundation stone that reflects things as they truly are; a stone of radical honesty
- Rhodonite – A stone to support you and help you unwind when dealing with our fast-paced world
- Carnelian – Another multi-faceted stone that supports recovery from burnout, boosts creativity, and helps us overcome inertia in all areas of life
- Beryls (Aquamarine & Emerald) – Aquamarine helps us release and let go while Emerald opens and uplifts the heart and reminds us we are deserving of unconditional love
Ashley: I’m so glad that you included both because I think they’re both so important. I would love to go back to your very first recommendation which was quartz. Quartz is a family, we’re not just talking about clear quartz. Quartz being silicon dioxide shows up in many different ways.
Do you think clear quartz is the one they should go with? Or are you saying just pick something from the quartz family?
Nicholas: You’ve got options here. So let’s take a step back and look at how we actually differentiate mineral species.
A mineral, as I mentioned earlier, is a naturally occurring inorganic crystal. A crystal is structurally considered to be something that has a regular composition. It’s the same ingredients, more or less through and through. It has the same kind of structure, the same shape. If you could look at how the molecules arrange themselves, you could connect the dots and make a geometric form out of that. And it’s that same form over and over again until it fills all the space, and you end up with a crystal.
In the case of minerals, mineral species can have lots of different colors. If we have just tiny traces of other stuff, it’s not enough to change the formula. So geologically, they are still the same mineral species.
So, technically, there are two quartz in my list because carnelian is considered a variety of quartz.
Now you can’t see its crystals with the naked eye, so we call that crypto crystalline from the word that means hidden. So in the hidden crystal structure, its microscopic quartz crystals and then some iron oxide. With the quartz family, we have the macrocrystalline quartz, the one whose shapes we can see. And then you’ve got microcrystalline quartz, like; jasper, agate, carnelian, chalcedony, flint the like.
All of them, to a geologist, have the same ingredients, the same unit cell, and the same fundamental shape. And we can play with those. We can take the same fundamental shape and fill the available space differently. Are we filling it with one single solid crystal? Like one beautiful, transparent, flawless, six-sided prism that makes a quartz crystal. Or are we compacting lots of other crystals together and we compact them together. There’s room for other stuff to fit between the spaces, which is why we have so many colors of agate and jasper and the like.
But I would say in this list, for the sake of argument, I’m picking a crystalline quartz, something that forms crystals.
You don’t have to have a natural crystal shape. Any of those crystalline varieties of quartz with their varying degrees of transparency, depending on the quality, the difference between them chemically speaking is so minuscule. I had an instructor, in a geological field, use this metaphor (this is an approximation): If you had a one-foot cube of clear quartz perfectly transparent, with no flaws and you wanted to turn it into amethyst, for example, the amount of iron that you need is less iron than you have in the tip of a ballpoint pen.
They’re more alike, chemically- and structurally-speaking, than they are different. So really, from the most basic level, they’re all heavy hitters. They’re all multifaceted, they’re all good multitaskers. If you find yourself drawn to clear quartz, do that. If you want smokey or amethyst or citrine or whatever, go for it.
But certainly clear quartz not having extra ingredients is going to give us the broadest spectrum, which we also see when we use it as a prism. It makes that full light, if you take a natural piece in the sunlight and play with it you can find these little rainbows that appear as light passes through. You can do that with the other varieties, but it’s not as resplendent as clear quartz.
Ashley: Amazing Nicholas, thank you so much. This has been such a pleasure, I love hearing about the process behind the new book and your suggestions for 5 foundational minerals to have in our crystal toolkits.
Could you tell everyone where they can find the Crystal Basics Pocket Encyclopedia which is out now and how they can get signed copies and stay in touch with you?
Nicholas: Absolutely, my book is now available from every major and minor retailer. Go visit your local indie store. You can also find it at all the big-box stores in-person or online like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
If you’d love a signed copy, I do have links on my website to my Etsy shop where I’ve got signed books available. If you’d love to stay in touch with me, find out when I’m doing more classes and workshops and other things, you can sign up for my newsletter on the website as well.